“Never had she danced so beautifully; the sharp knives cut her feet, but she did not feel it, for the pain in her heart was far greater.” ― Hans Christian Andersen
Nicklaus took a deep breath and stepped out of the limo. Flashes immediately blinded Nicklaus’ vision. A red carpet was placed on the floor, running towards the mansion. Paparazzi eagerly flashed their cameras at him.
Nicklaus was involved in some legal business as a cover up. Instead of being known as the leader of one of the biggest gangs in Russia, to the world Nicklaus owned the largest hotel chain in the world, the Royal Veil.
Hela’s bare leg appeared from the limousine, her scarlett heel matching the carpet’s colour. Nicklaus extended his hand for her to take. Hela looked up at him. Her eyes felt as if they could burn holes into his skull, but she took his hand.
Her slim figure slid out of the car and the paparazzi went wild. All Nicklaus could see were thousands of flickering lights. His eyes burned but still he plastered on a smile. Usually, he would’ve avoided all this stupid mayhem, but he wanted the world to know that she was his.
Nicklaus placed his hand on the small of her back once again and pushed her forward. They walked excruciatingly slow towards the mansion. Hela’s lips were drawn into a thin line, her expression impassive even though her muscles were on fire and her eyes felt as if they were melting.
Behind them, Alexander and Roxanne were doing the same. Yet Roxanne didn’t pay any attention to the eager photographers. She kept her eyes pinned at Hela‘s head all the way, thinking how good it would feel if she cut it off her body.
After what seemed like hours they reached the wooden double doors, which opened widely as Nicklaus and Hela climbed the last marble stairs. Soft music echoed around them as they walked through a large hall. Ornate chandeliers dangled from the ceiling, emitting a soft glow along the walls.
They reached another set of doors. Two guards stood at each side of what seemed to be a metal detector. Nicklaus pushed Hela gently towards the detector and she walked through it. The others followed. The guards patted them down, and opened the large mahogany doors.
As soon as they stepped inside, the world filled with the roar of music, laughter, and chatter along with a blast of heat, the scent of pungent cigar smoke, perfume, and scrumptious food all rolled into an incomprehensible wave of sensation.
Expensive furniture decorated the ballroom. The room glittered with gold watches, shiny silks and sparkling jewels. The people were dining and drinking, smoking and laughing. Through it all, an army of white-gloved servers carried trays of champagne glasses and hors d’oeuvres under the winking chandeliers. A dome rose in the middle of the ballroom, and all sounds were magnified.
Nicklaus tugged Hela’s bare back and they started walking across the polished marble floor. Nicklaus’ movements were large and perfectly balanced, his steps were calculated, every movement he made oozed power and diction. Hela could barely walk, even less in those death heels.
People stared curiously at Hela as they walked past.
Hela recognised many faces in that room, many who were being hunted by the Unseen.
“Nicklaus Ivanov,” a deep voice boomed. Hela froze as the voice reached her ears.
A tall man in his fifties walked towards them. His greying hair was plastered to his head. He wore a silver suit, his round stomach straining against the buttons, which would pop out at any second. His stature towered over seemingly lesser men, a forced smile deforming his face.
Under all the makeup, Hela grew sickeningly pale as the man stood in front of them. The force of haunting memories swept through her like a tide, turning her alternately hot and cold.
“Ricardo, pleasure.” Nicklaus couldn’t fight the smirk forming on his lips as he slightly nodded his head.
“I see you’ve brought company.” His eyes drifted to Hela’s face. Something dark flickered in his eyes as he gazed at her. The numbness that had drowned Hela for so long started to recede as rage bubbled deep inside her. It was hard for her to contain herself as he groped Hela’s hand and kissed it with his slimy lips.
Hela felt disgust ripple through her body. She would wash her palm until it bled.
Ricardo flashed his bleached grin at her, not letting go of her hand. “ We have met before, I recall. Maybe two or three years ago.” He pressed her hand harder than was necessary. But Hela was too enraged to feel anything.
Her eyes burned into his for a brief moment, everything that needed to be said was shared in those death glares. He let go of her hand.
Nicklaus saw this and gripped Hela’s waist harder. “It’s nice to see that you two know each other,” Nicklaus said, flashing his own false smile at him.
“Well, indeed,” Ricardo agreed.
Just then, the live orchestra started playing another song.
“May I?” Ricardo had extended a beefy hand towards Hela. Nicklaus hesitated for a moment, his hand still on her waist, but let go.
“Go on,” he told Hela. He flashed her a threatening look as Ricardo grabbed her hand and yanked her towards the center of the ballroom. Hela looked over her back one last time, making sure Nicklaus saw her you-will-regret-this look.
Ricardo placed his hand on the small of her back. In that moment, she would’ve loved the snake on her back to come alive and sink its teeth into his hand, letting its venom slowly rot his insides.
But it didn’t.
She stared at him, her body stiff as he grabbed her hand. He placed her other hand on his shoulder and took a step closer towards her. She could smell the stench of his breath. His cologne did nothing to hide the putrid smell of his sweat.
“Who thought you would end up like this?” He said this displaying the ugliest smile Hela had ever seen. “Maybe I’ll even convince that boy to let me fuck you.” He started to sway to the music, forcing Hela to move too.
She hated dancing. She hated this man. She hated the dress she was wearing. Yet she had to do what she was told. She was sick of it.
“Yet I’d have to kill you afterwards,” he mused. He gripped her hand tighter, and Hela felt her bones struggle to stay in place. Hela locked her jaw.
“Remember what I told you last time we met?” Ricardo breathed into her ear.
Of course she did. She heard it in her head every time she closed her eyes, every time she thought of him, every time she woke up screaming.
“Last time, you messed with my Mafia and I had to do what I had to do. But this time you went too far. You messed with me, you killed my only son. I will make sure you come with me before tonight is over. You can’t imagine what I will do to you.”
Hela’s breath hitched. Her nostrils flared. She could only see red. Do something, a small voice in her head whispered. I can’t, Hela thought, I’m too weak. I can’t do anything. I’m a whore. I should just let them beat me until I die. Maybe dying isn’t so bad. It must be better than this.
Do something! Kill him! The voice was getting louder, but Hela tried to ignore it.
I can’t, I’m too weak. I can’t do anything. I’m a whor-
DO SOMETHING! KILL HIM!
Ricardo smirked. “I’ll kill you just like I killed James.”
Something snapped inside her and her fist collided with Ricardo’s eye. She felt the soft flesh quelch beneath her fist. Ricardo staggered backwards covering his eye with his hands. Gasps could be heard around them but Hela couldn’t see anyone except Ricardo.
She lunged at him and Ricardo fell onto the floor. She punched him over and over, her knuckles full of blood, red spraying everywhere. Screams erupted from the crowd. Hela was also screaming. Her vision was blurred with rage- or were they tears?- as she kept on beating him.
Someone grabbed her waist and pulled her off Ricardo. She tried to escape. She writhed and kicked and punched into the air and screamed.
DO SOMETHING! KILL HIM!
She barely felt the metal syringe plunge into her arm. She screamed and screamed. Her eyes started to close and her body started to feel numb again. She tried to move but couldn’t.
Darkness drowned her, filling her lungs, her heart, her brain…